IN THE BEGINNING
Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
(Genesis ch1, v1)
God’s creative work continues today.
Scientists tell us that over millions of years, stardust has formed galaxies and black holes, and our solar system has come into being.
On our planet, life was born and has evolved to the forms we know today, with humankind having power over and responsibility for all other life on earth.
Through the ups and downs of human history and their experience of slavery and deliverance, one particular race, the children of Abraham, came to recognise God’s care for them, and accepted that their responsibility to him was shaped by the Ten Commandments. They looked forward in hope to one who would lead them to a time of peace and justice, which they called the Kingdom of God. This leader they called the Messiah.
Two thousand years ago, when the Roman Empire was at its height, Jesus was born in Bethlehem amongst the people of Abraham. He learnt to be a carpenter. But when he was about 30, he began to live as a travelling teacher. He called people to repentance. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He healed people sick in body and mind. And he taught that God’s way was the way of love. Some believed that he was the promised Messiah (or Christ, to use the Greek term) and became his disciples. This made him a threat to the religious leaders who had him executed on a cross in Jerusalem. The manner of his dying was the most profound example of his message of universal love that his friends had ever seen. But it seemed that their hopes of a Messiah were at an end.
After his death, Jesus’ friends had experiences of the presence of Jesus, so unexpected and so vivid, that they declared that God had raised him from the dead. Their own fellowship, so weakened by his death, was transformed by these experiences, and they came to know much of the prophetic power to teach and to heal that they had seen in Jesus, within themselves. It was as if the Kingdom of God was within them and they were filled with God’s Spirit. The new community knew and shared both forgiveness and grace.THE
Because of the witness of Jesus’ friends and the quality of the fellowship they shared, others came to believe that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and joined the fellowship. The message and its fellowship (the Christian church) spread through the Roman Empire, initially through Jewish synagogues. When the Jerusalem Christians saw the grace and power of Jesus at work in those who were not the children of Abraham, they realised that they too could be full members of their fellowship. Christians today (and there are Christians now in every land) believe that they are in fellowship with Jesus, in acts of worship especially remembering him with bread and wine; when they seek the way of God in meditation and Bible reading; and when they meet other people to listen and to care. Christians seek the way of God, but their experience is of God seeking and finding them through Jesus.
THE SECOND COMING
From the earliest times some Christians expected the Kingdom of God to take political form. Jesus refused this in his and spoke of a future fulfilment. Christians still believe in the ultimate acknowledgement of God’s love, and describe this as the second coming of Jesus.
The Bible comes in two parts, the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament contains the history of the children of Abraham down to the time of Jesus, as well as the teaching of their prophets, with books of wisdom including drama and poetry. These books formed the Bible for Jesus. The New Testament contains four accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (the Gospels), a very brief history of the early Church (Acts) and letters written by Christian leaders to local churches during the first Christian century. The closes with the book of Revelation.